Alex Sheppard-Reid (right) and Michelle Collier (left) will be performing in Gateway Theatre’s 2018 production of It’s a Wonderful Life. (Grace Kennedy photo;Contributed photo — inset)

Alex Sheppard-Reid (right) and Michelle Collier (left) will be performing in Gateway Theatre’s 2018 production of It’s a Wonderful Life. (Grace Kennedy photo;Contributed photo — inset)

North Delta actors takes the stage in musical production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

Alex Sheppard-Reid and Michelle Collier will be performing in Gateway Theatre’s show this Christmas

This holiday season, two North Delta actors will be up on stage spreading Christmas cheer in Gateway Theatre’s musical production of It’s a Wonderful Life.

“It’s one of the few musicals that’s really Christmas-y, as opposed to just a lovely musical,” said actress Michelle Collier. Collier will be playing Ma Bailey in the musical, which runs through December at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre.

“It’s really focused on the spirit of peace on earth, good will to men, and women, and children.”

Many people are familiar with the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life, which follows Bedford Falls businessman George Bailey as he is brought back from the brink of despair by an amateur angel, who shows him what life would be like had he never been born.

“It’s got a wide range of emotion for the audience, and for the actors,” Collier said about the story.

The movie focuses on the narrative around George Bailey’s life — starting with his childhood and continuing through his struggles in adulthood. The musical takes that story and adds some theatrical flair, including a musical number devoted to Clarence the angel’s attempt to stop George Bailey from committing suicide.

That number is North Delta actor Alex Sheppard-Reid’s favourite part.

“It’s probably the most musical theatre-y part of the show,” Sheppard-Reid, 12, said about the song, which sees a number of angels dressed as pilots dance across stage. “The choreography is amazing; it’s so funny.”

Sheppard-Reid will be playing young George Bailey, as well as George Bailey’s son Pete, in the production. The Sunshine Hills Elementary student has acted before with Delta Youth Theatre, but this performance will be his first with a professional theatre company.

RELATED: North Delta youth takes the stage in Annie Jr.

“It definitely runs a lot faster,” Sheppard-Reid said about the experience. Instead of having two or three months of rehearsals before opening night, they had just four weeks. And instead of six performances, there will be nearly 30.

“It’s so different from what I’m used to, but it’s really, really fun,” he said.

“I have missed a lot of school, so it’s been difficult for me to keep up with everybody else,” he added. “But I have kept going and I’m pretty much caught up now. It was just difficult at first to try and manage both of them.”

Despite the challenge of balancing school and rehearsal, Sheppard-Reid seems to be succeeding in his theatrical role.

“I’m really impressed with him. He’s a delight to work with,” Collier said. “He has an entire song, and he’s just doing a fantastic job.”

Like many of the actors in Gateway Theatre’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Sheppard-Reid will be taking on two characters — something that is both a great experience for the young actor and also a challenge.

“I find the best way for me to separate them is just [to give them] completely different personalities,” Sheppard-Reid said about his roles. “I try and make sure they don’t really have anything in common so I can keep things different, so it’s not like, ‘Why is young George here with adult George?’”

Even for veteran performers like Collier — she wouldn’t give her age, but has been performing since elementary school and is now old enough that her “favourite activity is seniors’ day at Value Village” — the alternate reality brought forward at the end of the musical provides an artistic challenge.

“We change so drastically,” Collier said. “How would I age? Would I walk differently? Certainly … my voice would be different because I wouldn’t have had the joy in my life of having George as my son.

“So that’s a challenge,” she continued. “It’s always good to have a challenge when you’re doing a part.”

So how does the musical compare to the movie?

Without giving too much away — Collier was hesitant to do that — the musical features a Charleston dance number, numerous costume changes over the decades of George Bailey’s life and special effects when Clarence the angel first arrives. But it still aims to maintain the heartfelt sincerity of the Christmas classic, Collier said.

“It’s moving, it’s fun,” she said. “I know families who every year go to the Christmas musical at Gateway, and that’s a family tradition for them, and that’s a lovely thing.

“This is a really wonderful one to add to that series of musicals at Gateway.”

Tickets for It’s a Wonderful Life begin at $29 and are available online at gatewaytheatre.com/its-wonderful-life. Shows will be performed on the main stage at Gateway Theatre in Richmond (6500 Gilbert Rd., Richmond). Opening night is Dec. 6, and shows run until Dec. 31.



grace.kennedy@northdeltareporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A memorial remains near the site of where South Surrey mechanic Paul Prestbakmo was killed in August 2019. (Tracy Holmes photo)
Pixabay image
Surrey recovers 29,000 jobs it lost to pandemic

That’s according to Surrey Board of Trade’s fifth Surrey Labour Market Intelligence Report on COVID-19

Desmond Tompkins helped curate and host a youth art show at the South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre art show highlights ‘diverse perspectives’

With COVID-19 protocols in place, youth art show underway

RCMP Isp. Benoit Maure (top right) has written a book, Leading at the Edge, which details Canadian peacekeeping missions, including his own 1999 mission in Guatemala (bottom right). (Contributed photos)
Longtime RCMP officer pens book on Canadian peacekeeping efforts

RCMP Insp. Benoit Maure’s new book, Leading at the Edge, features stories from 10 missions

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

ICBC has seen savings on crash and injury claims in the COVID-19 pandemic, with traffic on B.C. roads reduced. (Penticton Western News)
ICBC opens online calculator for rate savings starting in May

Bypassing courts expected to save 20% on average

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
16% boom predicted for B.C. real estate sales in 2021: experts

Along with sales, the average price of homes is also predicted to rise, by nearly 8 percent

The trial of Harry Richardson began Monday at the Nelson courthouse. File photo
Trial of man accused of shooting RCMP officer in West Kootenay in 2019 begins

Harry Richardson is facing five charges in a Nelson courtroom

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Brad Windsor has been an advocate for years to get sidewalks installed along Milburn Drive in Colwood, but to no avail. He wants city council to commit to making Milburn a priority lane for sidewalk construction in the future. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dramatic crash caught on B.C. home security camera

Angry residents say video highlights need for sidewalks in B.C. residential neighbourhood

An independent review is underway at the Royal BC Museum after employees called out systemic, individual racism at the institution. (Twitter/RBCM)
Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment

Formal investigation, survey and training launched at museum

In this May 23, 2012, file photo, an approximately 2-year-old female cougar runs away from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife trap after being released northeast of Arlington, Wash. A cougar has attacked and severely mauled a man in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Mulligan/The Daily Herald via AP
Cougar euthanized in B.C. after severely mauling a man north of Vancouver

Whistler RCMP officers were first on the scene and shot and killed a cougar prowling nearby

Most Read